I miss playing Modern. The last time I got a chance to do so was around 2019, for obvious reasons. I was working on my Vesperlark Reanimator deck at the time, and had settled on a list that I was pretty happy with. The format is radically different now, dominated by delving dragons, pilfering monkeys and a rainbow of elementals. Suffice it to say, I’m not sure that a quick Triskelion or Trostani’s Summoner can keep up with Urza’s Saga, an Ephemerated Solitude or a giant Murktide Regent. I’m curious to try, though.

Vesperlark Reanimator (8.22)


Deck by Ben Iverach-Brereton


New Meta, New Threats

The good news is that my reanimation targets dodge some popular removal: Prismatic Ending doesn’t look very good against six and seven mana creatures. Solitude is still a big problem, as is Fury. Luckily, unless the elementals are being blinked immediately, Trostani’s Summoner will leave behind a couple of bodies, and Triskelion can fire off some damage on its way out (the timing might just be a bit tricky to get right).

It’s possible I should be waiting until I can keep up interaction before I reanimate anything, whether that’s a red for Lightning Bolt or a white for Path to Exile. Doing so could be vital to break up those aforementioned Ephemerate plays. Ultimately it may be correct to start running that blink spell again myself; in the before times it felt like a “win more” card, where it didn’t do all that much until I had already established my board state. These days it might prove to be a necessary tool just to save my creatures and keep up with my opponent’s big plays. I’ll have to see how things go without it, but it’s certainly back on my radar.

The Abyss

What really got me thinking about my Vesperlark deck again was a suggestion on Twitter. I jokingly responded to a Channel Fireball tweet that I was “doing Modern reanimator wrong this whole time,” and someone commented that I should be running Master of Cruelties, given how good it is with Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

I’d seen the demon paired with Kaalia of the Vast many times (at least during theory discussions), but I’ll admit that I’d never thought of running it alongside Alesha. Master of Cruelties can also be brought back with Vesperlark, making it well worth trying here. Thanks for the idea, @bobobo773; I cut a single Trostani’s Summoner to make room for the demon; if it works well I’m sure I can squeeze in another one.

The inclusion of Master of Cruelties made me want to tinker with my mana base to accommodate more black mana. Thankfully, doing so for a such small splash is relatively trivial; swapping out one Stomping Ground for a second Blood Crypt would probably be enough when combined with the deck’s fetchlands. Considering I was completely incapable of casting my Faerie Macabres before now, I don’t think black mana is in that high demand, even with the addition of the Master. If I ever add Vindicate or something like that to the sideboard (a tempting thought), I should probably add a basic Swamp, and maybe a Marsh Flats. I’ll probably skip Bloodstained Mire until it gets a reprint, though!

In the end, the core of the deck will stay white and red, with the other colours only being there for when I need to hard cast my big creatures or pay Rix Maadi Reveler‘s Spectacle cost.

What About Persist?

So if I’m adding more black mana to my Modern reanimator deck, the obvious question is whether I should be running Persist as well. The new go-to reanimation spell for Modern is great for getting an Archon of Cruelty or Serra’s Emissary into play, after all.

On the flip side, Persist falls short if your goal is to bring back smaller creatures. It’s still decent with Trostani’s Summoner, since you’ll still get a bucket of tokens out of the deal, but because the Summoner dies right away, it cuts off the opportunity to blink it for more value. It does end up in the graveyard again right away, though, so this is a mixed blessing.

Persist is pretty bad with the other big Vesperlark targets, though. Returning a Triskelion with a -1/-1 counter is pretty lackluster; sure, it’s still a cheap way to make a 3/3 with a built-in Twin Bolt, but that’s a lot worse than getting a full Lightning Bolt‘s worth of damage. Master of Cruelties is even worse with Persist, dropping to a meager 0/3 and making it trival to block, instead of being the intimidating Abyss that it’s supposed to be.

There are some clever lines possible, like returning a Vesperlark with Persist so you can get a different creature back at full strength, but that would almost never happen.

The Setup Cost

I’ve said it before: Vesperlark Reanimator is at its best when it’s played as a midrange value deck that can get off to an explosive start. When it’s played as a combo deck it inevitably falls short. With that in mind, I’m not convinced that dedicated Entomb spells like Unmarked Grave actually serve this midrange strategy in any useful way.

Unmarked Grave runs into a lot of the same problems I had with Eladamri’s Call during my early play tests with the deck. It’s rare that a Modern deck can afford to spend an entire turn early on just tutouring, unless it can make up for it in a big way later on, like Tron or dedicated combo decks. If the creatures this deck reanimated were more powerful, this would be a different conversation, whether that would include a game-ending bomb like Archon of Cruelty, or a free creatures like Solitude that can be cast the same turn it’s searched up with Eladamri’s Call. Master of Cruelties sort of gives this deck a combo finish, but even that doesn’t tip the scales enough to warrant Unmarked Grave.

The Modern Entomb is certainly consistent at setting up a reanimation spell, but when you don’t need it it’s a huge waste of a draw. By comparison, rummagers like Rix Maadi Reveler and Haggle can be just as good at setting up a quick reanimation, but are much more useful in the late game; the ability to pitch an extra land for an extra draw shouldn’t be understated. Plus, rummaging helps fuel Irencrag Pyromancer when I bring it in from the sideboard; it gives me a powerful backup plan for those games when I have to play around graveyard hate like Relic of Progenitus or Leyline of the Void.

On the Side

Speaking of the sideboard plan, I’ve made a couple of small changes there, too. Sadly, I think it’s time I say goodbye to Genesis; it was fun the few times I was able to grind out my opponents with it, but realistically there aren’t many matchups where I’d want to side it in. Alas.

Instead, I decided to sneak in some more interaction in the form of Prismatic Ending. The deck already has a four-colour mana base, so it makes sense to use it. I opted to move the Ending to the main deck in place of one Path to Exile (which ended up in the sideboard). This gives me marginally more flexible interaction for game one. Prismatic Ending can’t deal with any really big threats, and it’s noticeably slower than Path because it’s a sorcery. Still, it’s a way to deal with artifacts or enchantments before sideboarding, so that’s probably worth it.

Finally, I decided to cut one copy of Phyrexian Revoker to make room for Void Mirror. Revoker is fine, but I find it to be quite fragile. The Void Mirror doesn’t fill the same role at all, but instead provides some protection from from free spells like Force of Negation, Crashing Footfalls and Solitude. It also shuts down Mishra’s Bauble and can hate on certain Tron decks. That’s always a nice bonus; there’s a reason I’m running Ghost Quarter, after all!

Small Tweaks

All in all, the changes I’ve made to this list are pretty minor. I’ve only swapped out three cards in the main deck and two in the sideboard. It’s not much, but actually gives me a lot to test anyway. Like I said before, the deck was working pretty well already; at this point I’d rather make gradual changes and see how it goes than do a complete overhaul.

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